Changing approaches to business ethics
An arch over one of the exits from Greenwich Market in the east of London bears a sign which reads “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord but a just weight is his delight”. Erected in the nineteenth century, this quote from the Biblical Book of Proverbs (11:1) underlines the traditionally religious nature of most thinking regarding the proper conduct of business internationally. Greenwich is also the home of the Old Royal Naval College and the Greenwich Meridian – it was the military centre of the British Empire, the Pentagon of the nineteenth century. Greenwich is also the site of the parish where Joseph F. Mees served as a lay reader until his death during the outbreak of the Spanish u at the end of the First World War. I would like to imagine that my great uncle had a hand in erecting the Old Testament quote over that exit to Greenwich Market, but it seems more likely that it is older than that. In 1849, an Act of Parliament gave the Commissioners of Greenwich Hospital the right to set up and manage Greenwich Market and I suspect that the biblical warning against falsifying balances was erected then as merely one of the many acts of Victorian epigraphic piety that still dot the British built environment today.